A nurse sleeps at the bedside of his dying patients; a wife deceives her husband by never telling him he has cancer; a bedridden man has to be hidden from his demented and amorous eighty-year-old wife. In her poignant and genre-busting debut, Susana Moreira Marques confronts us with our own mortality and inspires us to think about what is important.
Accompanying a palliative care team, Moreira Marques travelled to Trás-os-Montes, a forgotten corner of northern Portugal, a rural area abandoned by the young. Crossing great distances where eagles circle over the roads, she visits villages where rural ways of life are disappearing. She listens to families facing death and gives us their stories in their words as well as through her own meditations.
Brilliantly blending the immediacy of oral history with the sensibility of philosophical reportage, Moreira Marques’ book speaks about death in a fresh way.
Praise for Now and at the Hour of our Death
‘Raymond Carver once wrote about loving everything that increases me. This book increased me. It is fearless and luminous and full of grace; it travels to the edge of death and finds life there. Its attention to the particulars of love—between the ones who will go and the ones they will leave—is something close to sublime.’ Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
‘The writing of Susana Moreira Marques has the quiet intensity and the transformative power of poetry. She describes, in tender detail, the dying of people and the slow dying of a remote rural community, the one superimposed on the other. She does not judge or assume but listens and imagines and tries to understand not only those who are dying but also those around them and who try to care for them. She observes that it is perhaps harder to watch the dying of someone we love than it is to die ourselves . . . Good doctors pay real attention to the detail of dying and this book will help them to see and hear more. Marques pays tribute to the palliative care doctor who “will hold your hand as she chases away . . . fear.” Yet she also delivers a fierce warning to the more foolish and damaging aspirations of contemporary medicine.’ Iona Heath, author of Matters of Life and Death: Key Writings
‘A tender, lyrical and intimate meditation on death and bereavement, examining dispossession, the fury of grief and the end we all will face. Now and at the Hour of our Death is written with great compassion, and with the economy and precision usually reserved for poetry.’ Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being
‘Moreira Marques has the ability to evoke an entire lifespan in a few words or sentences, summoning an individual through a brief experience, event or gesture . . . Her great achievement is to situate dying so squarely within life itself. She liberates death and dying back into the messy business of living.’ Anne Karpf, author of How to Age
‘A brilliant book which pushes the boundaries, not only of literary reportage but of literary genres in general, to discuss that most intimate of moments: death . . . Death isn’t good or bad, death is; and Susana Moreira Marques writes about it in her first book in a way that can only be done by great writers.’ Isabel Lucas, Público
- ‘A beautiful meditation on life and death . . . her writing shows that there is poetry in the most unexpected places.’ Jo Lateau, New Internationalist
‘An extremely rare event: a book capable of creating its own form, inventing on the way a new literary genre.’ José Mário Silva, Expresso
‘One of the best books ever written about the meaning of life’s end.’ Ana Dias Ferreira, Time Out Lisbon
‘Susana Moreira Marques has written a book you cannot categorise.’ José Riço Direitinho, Revista Ler
‘To read Now and at the Hour of our Death is to better recognise the glitzy clichés and ragged euphemisms with which we dress up our mortality, and when to value or discard them. It is to embrace the fact that we are not gods. It is to define a good death. It is to “know you are a machine and not feel saddened but, rather, liberated by the thought”. It is to travel to the land of malady, and back again.’ Laura Garmeson, 3:AM
- ‘A beautifully crafted, powerful meditation on the nature of existence’. Booktrust
- ‘A slim volume with not a syllable wasted’. Akanos
- ‘Some of the individual aphorisms wonderfully encapsulate the sense of lost control that death brings, and the relief of getting back to the basics of breath and beauty’. Nudge
- ‘The amount to which Moreira Marques manages to get these strangers to open up to her is remarkable’. Kate Gardner, For Books’ Sake
- ‘Susana Moreira Marques’s unique and quietly devastating book follows death as it goes about its grim work in the rugged and isolated wine growing region of Planalto Mirandês, Trás-os-Montes, in the north eastern corner of Portugal.”’Julian Hanna, Minor Literatures
- ‘For Moreira Marques, what divinity there is can be found only in the quiet beauty that would otherwise go unnoticed, in that artist’s refuge, the details.’ Alex Kalamaroff, Entropy Magazine
- ‘An intriguing work of non-fiction, Marques takes a fresh look at death through the eyes of a palliative care team… With great compassion she listens to those facing death and recounts their stories in their own words.’ Big Issue North
- ‘The writing is compassionate but unsentimental, taking in the bodily indignities of death alongside the beauty of the landscape and a vanishing way of life. The fragmentary structure lends an air of visceral realism, but also a slightly unsatisfactory, unfinished feel. Still, this is a powerful, harrowing book that would repay a second reading – if one could bear it.’ The Lady
- ‘This is book which stares death in the face and doesn’t flinch. There is no attempt to make it meaningful, or raise it beyond the often painful, and sometimes prolonged, process it is. Marques’ journey is perhaps one we should all be prepared to take.’ 1streading’s Blog
- Read more about Susanna Moreira Marques in our authors’ page.
- If you had subscribed to And Other Stories before Now and at the Hour of our Death went to the printers, you would have received the first edition of the book – in which all subscribers are thanked by name – before its official publication, as well us up to five other And Other Stories titles per year. Find out about subscribing to upcoming titles here.
- Now and at the Hour of our Death (original title: Agora e na hora da nossa morte) was discovered after being read in our autumn 2013 Portuguese reading group. Although our reading groups tend to throw up strong disagreement about books, this book was universally adored. Thank goodness, because we love it!
- This book was translated by Julia Sanches, who was chosen as a translator after winning our Birkbeck University / And Other Stories 2013 sample translation competition in the Portuguese category. Read Julia Sanches’ short piece about the book on our Ampersand blog.
- Listen to Susanna Moreira Marques discuss grief and Now and the the Hour of Death for BBC World Service.
- You can also read appetite-whetting excerpts from the book at The Offing (LARB), Tin House and Words without Borders.
- North American events in November 2015! (Porter Square Books, Boston and Community Bookstore, Brooklyn.)